Yao Manuscripts at The Asian Division of the Library of Congress

Reference: The Library of Congress

The Asian Division of the Library of Congress has purchased in recent years a sizable number of manuscripts of the Yao (a transnational minority, with the majority living in China). These documents represent a wide spectrum of subjects and genres, consisting of official documents, family and clan genealogy, stone inscriptions, religious texts and ritual observances, songbooks, prescriptions of herbal medicines and exhortative health tips, familial and clan contracts and accounts. Some are in song form; others are written for praying and chanting. Most of them are texts, but there are a few richly illustrated scrolls with texts – two among them long, particularly valuable and rare — on Yao legends.

The Division has been fortunate in finding and securing the assistance of Professor Hongyi He of South-Central University for Minorities, Wuhan, China, who is currently residing in the United States and has done the initial processing of these materials. They have been sorted, collated, and analyzed. Prof. Hongyi He is well qualified to undertake such a task, as her field is Chinese minority studies. She is also a folk artist, especially skilled in paper cuts, an ancient and popular folk craft. Prior to her work at the Asian Division she had traveled to Da Yao Shan, the Great Yao Mountain, in Jinxiu, Guangxi Province, and visited several settlements in Nandan inhabited by the “White- Trouser Yao,” one of the subgroups, where she was able to assemble extensive valuable materials, documenting and recording the life and social customs of the Yao people, including live music.

In October 2007 Professor Hongyi He gave a power-point lecture with color illustrations at the Asian Division, which was very well received by the audience. Even though a large number of the Yao manuscripts need conservation and preservation due to their poor condition, and at present viewing the original documents will not be possible, the Division wishes to make the information on these materials available to our researchers by providing a shortened form of Prof. He’s power point lecture with rich illustrations so that the public can gain a general overview of the collection.

The Yao documents in the Asian Division have been organized into the following 6 categories:
Jing Shu 經書 Religious and Ritual Texts
Wen Shu 文書 Documents
Ge Shu 歌書 Songbooks
Han Wen Qi Meng Jiao Ke Shu 漢文啟蒙教科書 Children’s Primers in Chinese
Li Shu, Hun Shu, Zhan Shu 曆書,婚書,占書 Calendar, Marriage, and Divination Books
Wu Ti 無題 Untitled

Below in PDF format is Hongyi He’s lecture, revised and abridged by her and Lily Kecskes, formerly the team coordinator of the Chinese/Mongolian Team of the Division (now retired) who also provided the English text. Professor He and Lily Kecskes are also working on an annotated catalogue of the 241 Yao manuscripts in the Asian Division collection.

Hongyi He’s lecture (PDF version, 9 MB)


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